Protest ex­pected as MPP opens of­fice

Dave Smith to host grand open­ing Satur­day morn­ing

The Peterborough Examiner - - Front Page - JOELLE KO­VACH Ex­am­iner Staff Writer

A protest is ex­pected out­side Con­ser­va­tive MPP Dave Smith’s con­stituency of­fice on Satur­day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. over work­ers’ is­sues such as the halted min­i­mum wage hike.

The protest is be­ing or­ga­nized by the On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of Labour, al­though it’s ex­pected to also in­clude re­tirees from Gen­eral Elec­tric who de­vel­oped can­cer from ex­po­sure to work­place tox­ins.

Sue James, a GE re­tiree and health ad­vo­cate, said she’s been try­ing to get a fol­low-up ap­point­ment with Smith since he met with the re­tirees for the first time, in Au­gust.

“We want a face-to-face with Smith, who seems to be avoid­ing us,” James said on Fri­day.

The protest will co­in­cide with the grand open­ing of Smith’s of­fice – which he calls the Ac­tion Cen­tre – at 1123 Wa­ter St. near Ma­rina Blvd. in the city’s north end.

Smith an­nounced in Oc­to­ber it would be a bar­be­cue, and he’d of­fer free hot­dogs and burg­ers.

He wasn’t avail­able for an in­ter­view Fri­day. When asked via text how he felt about the protest, he wrote that he will feed any­one who comes to his event.

“We want to en­cour­age ev­ery­one who comes – in­clud­ing the pro­test­ers – to bring mitts, scarves and hats to do­nate to Brock Mis­sion and Youth Emer­gency Shel­ter,” he wrote.

The On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of Labour (OFL) stated on so­cial me­dia Fri­day that the protest was or­ga­nized in ob­jec­tion to the provin­cial govern­ment’s treat­ment of work­ers.

The govern­ment pro­poses not to in­crease the min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour in Jan­uary as planned by the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral govern­ment, for in­stance, and to can­cel the two paid sick days that work­ers now get.

The govern­ment has also made cuts to the WSIB pre­mi­ums, the OFL points out – and that con­cerns James be­cause many GE re­tirees are seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for can­cer de­vel­oped from work­ing with toxic chem­i­cals.

James and a group of re­tirees – many of them sick with can­cer – first met with Smith in Au­gust to ask him to help them ad­vo­cate for com­pen­sa­tion.

He said at the time he’d do

re­search and up­date them on his find­ings in early Septem­ber, but James has not been able to set a fol­low-up ap­point­ment.

She’s spo­ken to Smith’s staff a few times this fall, she said, but they’ve told her there’s no point meet­ing be­cause he has noth­ing to re­port.

“You re­ally do feel he’s push­ing you aside,” James said. “He re­ally should be in­ter­ested in his con­stituents and what’s im­por­tant to them.”

When asked on Fri­day to re­spond to James’s as­ser­tion that he’s brush­ing off for­mer GE work­ers, Smith re­sponded (in writ­ing) this way:

“We have an open house to­mor­row and ev­ery­one is wel­come to come.”

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